I’m The Worst Candidate

But you should hire me anyway.  I imagine that I get flushed by every ATS out there.  After all I’ve broken all the “rules”  I have gaps in my resume.  I’ve been out of work too long. I’m too old now.  Enough red flags for a Soviet May Day  parade, along with ringing sirens and having the flashing lights going crazy.  By every logical reasonable metric of the standard hiring practices I’m a dead duck.  But there’s a good reason to hire me anyway.  It’s real simple.  I could make you a lot of money.

Let’s look at my track record.  In my last job, I worked on or designed, not one, not two, but three groundbreaking  instruments, in two years.  I brought two of them to production and the third was on it’s way when I was laid off.  Of course my layoff may have delayed that just a little bit. Not my fault.  I didn’t quit them, they quit me.

That’s amazing considering that a month before I started at that job I had barely heard about mass spectrometers.  I was able to do  what  I did because I was adaptable and had had enough experience in enough of the different technologies involved that I was able to quickly work my way through problems and bring a fresh outlook to the instruments.  The important things that got the job done weren’t boxes checked off on a list of requirements, but my aptitude for the technologies and my attitude toward the work.  Which is seemingly the opposite to the way the system wants to hire people these days.

The strange thing is that in the engineering world, things are changing so fast as far as new technologies are concerned that an engineer can’t afford to be a specialist and still do his job.  You have understand how the technology works in it’s environment and the means that the software engineer needs to know hardware and mechanics, the mechanical engineer needs to know how to code and electronics and the electrical engineer should know basic mechanics and coding.

Here’s Bunnie Huang and some people at MIT talking about the new paradigm.


In a way the new paradigm is part of what I’m trying to explore on this blog.


That doesn’t include the fact that engineers and designers also need to have enough experience with things outside engineering to realize the potential needs of sales and marketing and the sales and marketing people better have at least a grasp of the technologies they are selling.  That’s just the way the world is these days.

Yet somehow the only people who fail to understand that are the people trying to hire the talent that makes it all work.  Instead of opening up and looking for people with the right attitude and aptitude the trend is to look for people using ever more impossible requirement lists.

How long as this sort of been going on?  Far too long as the following link chain demonstrates.   First is a link to a I blog follow with a short list to a comment about Purple Squirrels, something that shows up on linked in as topic all too frequently.


One of the commenters  posted a link to his comments about engineering hires and seven pound butterflies, yet another impossibility that he had written in 2010.

The Five-Pound Butterfly Revisited

In that link he referenced a post from 2008

Hunting the Five-Pound Butterfly

In case anybody’s thinking that the chasing unicorn part of recruiting was a creation due to the financial crisis of 2008, well he was referencing a WSJ article from 2005 where the phenomena was well established.


In my experience, the stupidity probably goes  back even further, but the greater levels of employment and developing automation of office work masked the effects.   Because the economy was moving at a higher rate and most people were employed people worked around the system to get people hired and the work done.  Also, many of the “HR tech” software programs hadn’t been created yet, let alone implemented and HR hadn’t had as large a grip on hiring policies. The financial crisis changed all that.

The funny thing as the business world has gone further and further away from the Taylorism that was common in the old industrial companies of the last century for truly good reasons, the hiring people have drifted into ever tighter varieties of putting the correct people pegs in the correct job holes.  Seemingly for at least the last ten years and I suspect far longer, with consequences that can only be called an unmitigated disaster.

A quick glance at linked in and just reading how so many businesses are experiencing shortages sort of demonstrates just how bad the problem is.  We have millions of qualified skilled and dedicated people like me out of work and millions of jobs that we could do that don’t get filled for months or even years.  When you have all these jobs that keep showing up on the boards month after month and when you do apply for them, you get the email back that says, don’t call us, we’ll call you and yet you see the job still on the boards months later, there’s a real problem there.

Why is this happening?  I think that the problem is that the system has a lot of incentives for weeding people out and almost none for filling positions quickly.  Looking on Linked In you plenty of posts about “bad hires” and “better ways for finding the best people,” along with better behavior and psychological interview strategies and finding the “best fit” and almost nothing about making the process easier and getting done more quickly.

The fact is that the communication process has broken down almost completely and we candidates don’t have the power to make changes.  In the end it just gets more and more frustrating because the only thing we want is to do the jobs we know how to do.  Yet as time goes on we spend more time playing performing monkeys in a system that gets yet more inhumane seemingly with every passing day and keeps us still further from the jobs we know are there, but always seem to be out of reach.



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